By MIKE HUTCHENS
Messenger Sports Editor
On paper, the Union City’s Class 1A sectional game against Middleton Saturday night is a rematch of game played on Thanksgiving weekend.
Lady Tornado head coach Eddie Suiter isn’t certain that’s necessarily true.
“I’m not sure either of us resembles the team we were in that first game,” Suiter said when previewing just the second sectional contest — but second in as many years — in the history of UCHS girls’ hoops. “I don’t think either of us is running the same offense that we were running the first time around and I know some of our personnel, as far as what we ask our kids to do, is different.
“I think when you combine that with the fact the first game was played more than three months ago, I’m not sure that the first one matters at all.”
Union City won that first meeting, 42-34. Jackie Hudson had a team-high 13 points for the Lady Twisters, while Tory Reedy added nine.
Middleton (22-10) is led by sophomore guard Averyale Joy, who made four 3-pointers on her way to a game-high 20-point game in the Lady Tigers’ 41-39 loss to Madison in the Region 8A title tilt Wednesday.
Middleton had beaten Madison in three earlier meetings, all by double figures.
Sophomore forward Deja Faulkner had 22 markers in a 48-43 semifinal triumph over Scotts Hill, but scored just four in the regional championship game.
Like Union City — which has just one senior on its roster — Middleton is a relatively young team The Lady Tigers have no seniors and just three juniors with four sophomores and six freshmen.
The No. 1-ranked UC girls (29-3) will bring an 18-game winning streak into Saturday’s contest. A physical brand of defensive pressure has been the Lady Tornadoes’ trademark in this the most successful season victory-wise in program history.
Union City has held opponents to 34.2 ppg during the season and has cut almost another five points (29.5) off that points-allowed total during six tournament games.
The Twister girls have limited 10 opponents under 30 points in a game and three under 20 — including Greenfield (16) in the regional semifinals.
Though offensively-challenged at times, UC has gotten double-figure scoring from Hudson (14.2 ppg) and Reedy (13.4), the latter the team’s unquestioned floor leader.
Tamara Nettles (6.1), Kaleigh Bynum (3.7) and TauiNeiscia Skinner (4.3) combine to give the Lady Tornadoes a solid and well-balanced inside presence, with Hudson and Reedy also capable of scoring in the paint.
Sophomores Raven Fair (5.3) and Kealie Reaves (4.1), both instrumental in the open-court defensively, are capable perimeter shooters, as is Kristian Davis for the locals.
Union City is averaging 49.5 points-per-game in tournament play and is scoring at a 52.4 clip for the season.
Those past numbers — especially those in that first meeting with Middleton — have little value to Suiter.
“I had a chance to scout them (Middleton) in both the semifinals and finals of their regional tournament and they simply didn’t even look like the same team that we played earlier,” the Lady Tornado coach said. “I thought they did a much better job of going to the offensive glass against Madison than I’d seen them do in any other game, and their guards are athletic and are doing some different things.
“As far as us, I hope they just look at the tape from the first game and think we’re the same team now as we were then. As I’ve said before, we have some folks who were role players then who we depend on now. We’re a lot different than what we were in November.”
Suiter is hopeful of another big turnout of Purple and Gold clad fans Saturday and also thinks the two-hour drive from Middleton could be a factor for the visitors.
“I’m glad it’s them and not us, and I hope they enjoy the ride,” he smiled. “The ride back, I hope, is a different story.”
Tip-off is scheduled for 7 p.m.
Sports editor Mike Hutchens can be contacted by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Published in The Messenger 3.1.13